19 Not-So-Rare Earth Minerals Running Out


We all know water is becoming scarce.

The developing world poor have known this all too well for centuries.

Herculean water conservation efforts by a few companies, cities and even some states show there is hope. But unless radically scalable solutions are found fast, California’s current drought is going to feel like a short, dry cough compared to what’s going to happen in the growing number of water-stressed communities around the world (e.g., Australia!).

Water is something we absolutely need to live, so we are pretty aware of its looming shortage.

What few realize, however, is that many other “life-necessary” resources are also coming close to running out.

Rare earth minerals have a noted “Scarcity Brand”, shortages of them threaten our ability to manufacture everything from lasers, computers, x-ray machines, batteries, superconductors to hundreds of other products. Others, such as Yttrium and Samarium, are vital inputs to cancer treatments.

What’s more, rare earth minerals found in any volume are often smack-dab in the middle of geopolitically sensitive and or horrifyingly oppressive states.

british geological survey mineral risk list

british geological survey mineral risk list

It’s a bit unnerving to know that minerals this important are becoming more scarce and dangerous to get.

Worse yet, some not-so-rare minerals such as tungsten, antimony, bismuth, molybdenum, cobalt and fourteen others, are nerve wrackingly high on the British Geological Survey Risk List.

These minerals, along with their rare earth friends, are vitally important inputs to many of the technological innovations we are betting the global sustainability mortgage on.

Not enough irony?

Consider this: if we can’t manage to preserve water, without which life is impossible, what chance do we have conserving or replacing a bunch of grubby minerals?

PS Take a look at Nadya Zhexembayeva’s Overfished Ocean Strategy: Powering Up Innovation for a Resource-Deprived World.

This post is part of my Possibilities & Passion for Sustainability & Tech series, a non techie’s foray into understanding the what, where, and how of technologies that can contribute to a more sustainable global economy. Reports will be irregular in every sense of the word!


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